Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Fourteen poems for Valentine

My main focus recently has been job hunting as I was made redundant on 13 February 2017.  I didn't want to lose touch with my writing so I set myself a challenge for Valentine day. 

The Challenge


Starting from 14 February 2017, for fourteen days, I would post a love poem.  It involved reading some of my old work and editing to publish one each day.  I posted the poems to Wattpad. 

I discovered poems I had forgotten about.  Some of these, I am really proud of and others just needed a little editing (and some were so cringe worthy that we shall not speak of). 

Next year, I plan to set myself the challenge again and I plan on creating more poetry books in future.

Click here if you'd like to read the 2017 Valentine edition.


Organising Writing


The unexpected reward was how amazing it felt to organise my work.  I've written so much, in various stages of edits, it is hard to keep track of it all. Sorting them into a novel and posting online not only enables me to get the feedback I need but also is an easy way of organising my work.

I have written so much that my MS Office OneDrive has exceeded the space limit!  I remember my IT Department thinking I was nuts when I said I need to buy a 128gb USB to free up space on my computer by moving my writing. 

If anyone has any tips on how to organise writing (with multiple versions), please let me know. 

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Pip Box

Subscription Beauty Boxes

I've always loved the idea of subscription beauty boxes. They enable you to try a variety of products at an unbeatable discount.  However, many of the companies have products that don't meet my ethics or the shipping costs are too high.

I was incredibly excited when I heard of The Pip Box.  They are a cruelty free, UK based company and many of the brands are organic.  In addition, 50p from the sale of every box is donated to an animal friendly charity. 

It is named after the founders dog, Pippa.  Their goal is to end cosmetic testing on animals. 

The Pip Box

At the start of February, I ordered my first Pip Box.  They don't dispatch the orders until 20th of the month.  The wait felt incredibly long.  It wasn't until the 27th February 2017 that it finally arrived. 

A post shared by Alison Aldridge (@redfae) on


The Pip Box was packaged suitably.  The items were wrapped in blue tissue paper.  Inside the tissue paper was a pink cotton bag with the items.



A post shared by Alison Aldridge (@redfae) on


Each box, you are guaranteed at least 5 products with an average value of £35. The box contains information about the 5 products.  The products will often be full size (no sample or sachets).  The type of products are organic and natural make-up, skincare and haircare products.

What did I get?

A post shared by Alison Aldridge (@redfae) on

The five items I received were:
  • PHB Ethical Beauty - Natural and organic eyeliner (nearly black)
  • PHB Ethical Beauty - Natural and organic water resistant mascara (black)
  • Saturated Colour Lip Vinyl (Frisky Fuchsia)
  • Akamuti Green Clay Face Mask
  • Bloomtown Botanicals The Rose Garden soap

The box cost me £13.50 (+£3.99 P&P) but the goods are valued at £38.25 - and that's not including P&P!  That is incredible value.

PHB Ethical Beauty - Natural and organic eyeliner (black):  £8.95 RRP
I am so pleased with every single item.  The eyeliner is perfect.  It doesn't smudge and lasts all day.

PHB Ethical Beauty - Natural and organic water resistant mascara (black): £15.95 RRP
When I first saw the mascara brush, I thought it looked so basic and had no faith in its ability.  But, I gave it a go and it is the best I have ever used.  My lashes have never looked better.  However, water resistant is very different to waterproof as I discovered with panda eyes at the swimming pool.

Saturated Colour Lip Vinyl (Frisky Fuchsia):  £7.00 RRP 
The Lip Vinyl is a vibrant pop of glossy colour.  It is not sticky and lasts all day.  It you blot it, it becomes a lip stain.  The colour is very bright and vivid - I wouldn't class it as a day lipstick.

Akamuti Green Clay Face Mask:  £4.95 RRP
The green clay mask is a powder and you mix it with water to produce a paste.  You can apply it to trouble areas or all over as a full mask.  I used it as a full mask and was really pleased with how soft my skin felt afterwards.  I was also surprised at how it wasn't messy - I've used other powder masks and been put off by the mess.

Bloomtown Botanicals The Rose Garden soap:  £1.40 RRP
I have used the soap to wash my face for the past week and I think my skin is looking better as a result.  The soap has a gentle pleasant floral scent that is uplifting in a subtle way.

Verdict

If I hadn't been made redundant on 13 Feb, I would subscribe to this box without hesitation. It is exceptional value. 

All the products were top quality and items I may never  have ventured if it had not been for this box.  I'm a fan and will rebuy all the items when they run out. 

The first things I will do when I find a new job, is subscribe to The Pip Box!

Link:  http://www.thepipbox.co.uk/

Friday, 10 February 2017

Curtis Brown - Start Writing Your Novel

I've been subscribed to Curtis Brown's newsletter for a number of years and lusted over doing a course with them for a long time but never could afford it.  As an early birthday present, I got my husband to treat me.
Who is it for?

This introductory course is an excellent opportunity to get a feel of how the online courses run and see if it is right with you with out the expense or commitment of a full time course.

It is run by Curtis Brown a leading Literacy Agency and they share tips on what they are looking for and what makes a submission stand out.  You will cringe when they tell you the things writers repeatedly do that fails to impress.

Who shouldn't apply?

If you want feedback by the tutor on your writing, you will need to pay for one of the longer courses.

How is it run?

The course is easy to follow with support material in the format of a video and an article based on the transcript.  Following on from the support material there is an activity and the resources you need to accompany it.  Each week is split into two subject areas, with a related exercise for each.

This gives you the opportunity to consider what you have learnt and put it into practice.  You post your work to the forum for other students to comment on.  In return, you should comment on their work.

What does it cover?

The course covers an introduction to subjects to help you get started writing your novel e.g. reading as a writer, sources of inspiration and structuring your novel.  For such a short course, it cover a lot!
They are simple subjects that every writer should know but it never hurts to reinforce your foundations.   One of the subjects was the importance of getting into the habit of writing and making time for it - This is so obvious but a constant challenge for me and I valued the advice to overcome the obstacles.

During the course we were encouraged to come up with an idea for a story, the exercises got us to consider the pitch, plotting and planning, starting point, time, POV, character development, first page and chapter.  The exercises will challenge you to rethink the way you write and turn ideas I their head. 

What did I get out of it?

It got me to rethink the opening chapter of my novel, Angel.  It is now a prologue, written in 2nd POV and narrated by the demon - I never would have dared attempt to do this.  I also can see the plot holes in this novel before getting two involved in it and having a massive restructure later on. 

In addition, I took many of the points into consideration whilst editing Drift and transformed the first three chapters into something I feel confident in - a new feeling (as I'm incredibly critical of my work). 

Any problems?

The only issue I had with the course was that I assumed we had a week to complete the assignments.  About week 5, I discovered we were meant to post by Sunday so there was ample time for our work to be read.

In addition, I often wasn't able to comment on other peoples work and nobody ever commented on mine.  I could see other students commenting on each others work without any issue so I'm not sure why I could not.

Would I recommend it?

Overall, I would recommend this course. 

This post is my personal opinion and experience on the course - I have not received any incentive to write my review other than that I enjoy being informative and helpful to other writers. 

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Habit Of Writing

The new year is a time when many people stop to reflect on the past year and make plans for the year ahead.  They quit anything that is not adding value to their life and set goals to achieve their aspiration.

For me, my goal was to write more.
  1. To keep on track you need a plan.
  2. You break your overall goal into realistic steps.
  3. You reflect throughout the year at suitable intervals
  4. You adjust your plan when required
Many people give up when they  feel like they've failed but just because you didn't meet a target doesn't mean you failed.  Reflect on what went wrong and how you can approach it differently.  Most importantly, if you really want to succeed, never give up.

Many writers struggle to find the time they need to dedicate to their writing.  Often, this is because they have other full time commitments in their life.  I combat this by allocating an hour a day for my writing  (8pm to 9pm).  It might not sound like much but it is better than nothing.

Even so, real life can still get in the way.  Today, my writing time went to an emergency waiting room to check my son didn't have Meningitis - he didn't *phew*.  Sometimes I'm tired after work, my husband wants to spend time with me, I'm ill or I want to socialise.  Despite all the demands of my life, I never give up.

January, I set myself the target to write a chapter a day.  When I've not been able to I've tried to make up for it the next day (writing two chapters).  I wondered if the target was too ambitious and then I remembered, I set it to try and get myself into the habit of allowing myself time to write and to write more.  When I look at what I've achieved this month, I've written a lot, so it worked.

If you ever feel like your not achieving your goals, remember to keep going.  If you keep trying you have a better chance of success than if you just quit.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Drift is complete?

Finally, January 2017, I think Drift is complete.  I started writing it in December 2009.  I remember the way the story grabbed my imagination and I had to write it.  I woke early, went to bed late and snuck around like I was having an affair so my husband didn't catch me 'writing again'.  

Then I edited it, got friends and people online to read it, followed their feedback and edited some more.  Then, in the summer of 2010, I sent it out to agents. 

Luckily, I got some interest but it never went any further. Now, looking back at it, I can clearly see why it didn't get published. 

I've always loved writing but this novel will always be special.  It is the first one I believed good enough to seek publication.

For me editing was a real chore.  It killed my passion to write as I began overthinking every paragraph, sentence and word.  The skills required for editing are very different to those used to produce a raw draft. 

I attended local workshops, writers groups, networked online and attended speakers at Felixstowe Book Festival.  I paid for online courses like Write Story Books for Children and Curtis Brown's Start Writing Your Novel.  All in the hope that I could improve my writing and get Drift finished to a suitable standard. 

Finally, January 2017, I think my new polished version of Drift is finally good enough... 
Although, one thing I have learnt from the experience is to leave it a few weeks and then view it again with fresh eyes.  Tomorrow, I might see a need to edit again.

To read Drift, please visit Wattpad:  https://www.wattpad.com/story/69950568-drift-book-1-of-the-merallo-series

drift-cover
In this 'fishy tail' Mariah's complicated love life is just the 'spark' of her troubles!

One kiss is all it took to wake Mariah's storm summoning powers.

"Don't kiss him!"  Warned Gwyn, a famous psychic.  But fate has a funny way of making things happen that even magic cannot stop. 

Mariah is crushing on her best friend Jace who has a hot new girlfriend.  The hot new girlfriend's brother is Murray the swim team star and Mariah's rival.  With an unusual offer from Murray she has the chance to ruin the blossoming romance.

But, with no idea she's a mermaid, strange things begin to happen and soon Mariah is shooting off a storm.  Can she gain control of her powers before someone gets hurt or worse?

Monday, 9 January 2017

Scibophile Review

Scribophile
Fans of this site are not going to like this review but of all the sites I used I really did not like this one. 

It has a reputation of being a website for serious writers that want to exchange their feedback for feedback.  It does achieve that image. 

The interface is very down to business and not fun at all!  You will not find any pictures, music or videos here.  This site is for critiquing and talking about the are of writing.   


Restrictive:  If you use the site for free you can only post two stories/chapters at a time.  I think this drives people to post ridiculously long pieces.  Paying members will find their posts at the top of the list for feedback, free members will have to wait. 

Dull reading:  I found I spent a lot of time reading long boring stories (that were well written) and in return got very little help.  The stories were not the sort that I enjoy reading.  I felt this process slowly destroying my soul. 

If it was easier to choose stories to read that meet my tastes then I'd have enjoyed it more.  There was only one story I read and actually enjoyed. It was about a witches training school.  I never could find it again which was a shame as I would have loved to have read more. 

Critique:  This is a strength for the site.  It has different tools and methods to enable readers to give in depth critiques.  As much as I complain, I did have two really good critiques.  It was also refreshing to know you can be brutally honest rather than pussy footing around to not hurt their feelings - this site is where when you go when you need to know how to improve your writing. 

However, if you can only post two chapters at a time, keep in mind that the reader may not know what happened previously in the story or developed a relationship with the character.  Again, I felt this meant they couldn't give me the full rounded critique I desired. 

Groups:  You can meet like minded writers by joining groups.  I joined a few YA groups but still find the environment very sterile.  I don't feel like I can get involved.  I still get regular emails, so I know they are active. 

Pros:
  • For serious writers
  • Feedback exchange
  • Excellent critique tools
Cons:
  • Reading distracts from time spent writing
  • Feedback is opinions of other writers (may not relate to your target audience)
  • Very restrictive (unless you pay)
  • Ugly interface
Some people really love this site for it's ability to enable users to provide deep critiques.  Personally, it was not for me.  I found it depressing and it killed my will to write. 

If you want to use this website, consider getting a membership.  However, from my experience, I feel the money would be better spent on a professional editor that understands my genre, target audience and takes time to read the whole manuscript.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Opuss Review

Opuss
This is not a website, just an app on iOS.  Sadly, this app is getting less traffic.  They've done an amazing job of making it free and have a loyal fan base of writers who have been there since it first was released. 



App:  This app is perfect for mobile use as it is very simple.  It is mainly used for posting poems or short pieces.  It's easy to find something to read and to post.  It's like twitter for creative writing. 

Feedback:  You are unlikely to get any constructive feedback but people will comment, like and share what they enjoy and follow you.  The app ranks writers by their popularity and their is a chart for the top daily, weekly, monthly and yearly post. 

Pros
  • Simple to use
  • Fun ranking system
  • Great for short pieces of writing
  • Motivating community
Cons
  • Only available on iOS
  • Dwindling activity
  • Not great for long pieces of writing
Link:  http://opuss.com/home/